Women's Empowerment Event

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Parliament House
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
November 3, 2010

AMBASSADOR BOGARI: Your Excellency, Madam Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States of America; their Excellencies Ambassador Taylor and Madam Taylor; our ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Evan Paki; and, of course, all the wonderful women of Papua New Guinea. (Applause.)

On behalf of the women of Papua New Guinea, Madam Secretary, we are deeply honored to welcome you to Papua New Guinea. And also, on behalf of Dame Carol Kidu, PNG's only woman member of parliament, I take this opportunity to express her sincere regrets that she is not able to be here to greet you in person on this occasion.

This is a very historical and momentous occasion for us, with this visit of yours, Madam Secretary. The women of PNG who are gathered here are only a sample of all the wonderful women, heroic and wonderful women out there, who are doing what they can to make a contribution to make this country a better place. (Applause.)

The women of Papua New Guinea are the backbone of this country. You can see all these wonderful things here. If I may say, Madam Secretary, Dame Carol Kidu personally supervised all these, the array of displays that you can see here. She personally was able to put this together with her personal involvement. The preparation that has gone into this has followed the theme of – the three themes of women empowerment. And until her departure yesterday, she has expressed a hope that you will have enjoyed this event, what the women have been able to put together, and in your interaction you would have got at least a glimpse of what the women are doing in this country.

As you would have realized, the displays in tonight's event capture the women’s empowerment policy dialogue and themes for future bilateral exchange which Minister Kidu and, indeed, the government of Papua New Guinea is pleased to note, that both the United States of America and Papua New Guinea have – appear to be thinking in the same direction. This, of course – and the government, of course, looks forward to progressing this dialogue in a spirit of mutual partnership, Madam Secretary.

It now only leaves me, and with great pleasure, to now invite you to address the women of our nation. And on behalf of them, all these women here, I also take this opportunity to wish you a safe journey back to the United States. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Ambassador, thank you. (Applause.) Good evening, everyone. It is a great pleasure for me to be here with all of you. I am delighted that I am finally here. (Applause.) We had originally planned to do this last January. But, as you know, I was on my way here when the terrible earthquake in Haiti occurred, and I had to turn around. But I said at that time I would come to Papua New Guinea. And I am so pleased to see you all here tonight. (Applause.)

I want to thank Ambassador Bogari for her remarks, and for guiding me to see these wonderful displays. And, of course, I want to also, in her absence, thank Dame Kidu for the work that she did in helping to prepare this. It's unfortunate she cannot be here this evening. But I hope each and every one of you will express to her when you see her my deep gratitude for her leadership. She has been an outspoken advocate for women's rights and political participation. (Applause.) But she is the only woman member of parliament. And one of the very first displays that I saw said it all, I think. "One Woman is Not Enough." (Applause.) And so, I hope that there will be more women in parliament in the years ahead.

I want to thank each and every one of you who were standing by the displays which, as the ambassador said, very well describe the depth and the breadth of women's involvement in leadership in your country. The women who I briefly met – and it was much too brief – but I could tell from the descriptions that the women I was meeting are women who are making a difference here in Papua New Guinea.

And I want to thank you all, judges and magistrates, medical professionals, HIV/AIDS activists, farmers, artists, police officers and army officers, the women who are working to advance the rights of people with disabilities, the women who are working with (inaudible), the women who are making such a difference. And I know how you each, in your own way, have helped to pave the way for girls and women to go even farther in the future. And you are helping women be able to make the most of their own lives, and live up to their own God-given potential. So I would like to take a moment for all of us to recognize you, and to thank you for everything you do. (Applause.)

But what you are doing is essential, because no country in the 21st century can advance if half the population is left behind. The talents of everyone must be used, because the challenges we face require all of us. From climate change to child mortality, everything we face is too complex not to get the most out of every single person. And when we invest in women, we're not just investing in individuals. We are investing in families, and we are investing in the next generation, and we are investing in communities and countries. (Applause.)

Giving women access to education, health services, economic opportunities, and the structures of power is critical to alleviating poverty and disease in every part of the world. The United States is committed to working with you. That is why, next year, the United States, along with the Government of Papua New Guinea and the World Bank Group will bring together senior government officials and business leaders from across the Pacific to discuss how, together, we can expand vital opportunities for women. (Applause.)

Now, that is going to be an important occasion, and I know many of you will be participating. And we want to do more than that. We want to give Dame (inaudible) in the parliament. So the State Department is working with local organizations to help prepare women voters for the upcoming national elections in 2012. And let's get some more women to run for office in 2012. (Applause.)

Now, we are not only going to be training candidates for office, but we are going to be working very hard to combat violence against women and girls. If a woman or a girl cannot be safe in her own home, or safe in her own family, or safe in her own community, then that woman or girl will not have the chance to make the most out of her life. So we will be working with Exxon Mobil and local organizations on a mentoring program aimed at ending the culture of violence against women and girls in Papua New Guinea. (Applause.)

We will also be stepping up the fight against HIV by doubling our contribution to fight HIV/AIDS here next year. (Applause.) Papua New Guinea's HIV rates are some of the highest in Asia. And women are particularly vulnerable. And, as I was looking at the displays, I saw the display and saw the mention of the Clinton Foundation. And my husband is very proud of the work that his foundation is doing here. And we want to really make it a public campaign to try to prevent HIV/AIDS, and to treat and help those who have the disease. We are also ready to work with your government to pass and enforce tough laws against the trafficking of human beings, particularly young girls and young women. (Applause.)

Now, everything I have heard from our ambassador and from others who are much more familiar with your country than I am have told me about how strong and courageous the women of this country are. And, of course, we have a woman of valor, a courage award-winner here, as well, this evening. And I want to assure you that, as Secretary of State for the United States, empowering women, enabling more women to have access to their rights, to take their position in society, to choose what is best for themselves and their families, is one of my highest priorities. And I will do everything I can to assist you. (Applause.)

And I look forward to working with you. And I think it's next year that one of my top officials, the global ambassador for women, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, will come to Papua New Guinea to follow up on my visit to work with the women here to figure out what else the United States can do, so that we have even more women playing leadership roles in every aspect of your society.

Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2010/T35-14